Friday, July 20, 2007

My Atheist Scientist Husband Chats with Francis Collins

Friday, July 27, 2007

Last Tuesday, Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, was a guest on Here on Earth, talking about his bestselling book, The Language of God. My husband, who listened to the program, had this email exchange with him the day after the program. They each gave their permission to share this exchange with you:

Dear Dr. Collins,
My wife, Jean Feraca, just interviewed you on Wisconsin Public Radio. She is a religious person. I'm a non-believer/scientist. We have endless conversations about science and religion. I could not resist sharing with you two reactions to your comments.
There were two surprises for me in your comments.
First, you describe God in very anthropomorphic terms. After you said "God wants ..." or "God planned ..." I realized that you were describing a god who is a reflection of yourself; i.e. a god who really loves science and nature and thus laid down a world that a scientist would really enjoy exploring. There is so little ambiguity and wonder in this god; it seems to me a surprisingly limited (and excessively self-oriented) concept for such a big idea as a god. I CERTAINLY ADMIT THAT IF GOD IS REAL, THERE IS NO WAY OUR PUNY MINDS CAN ACCURATELY ENVISION WHAT HE IS LIKE. I THINK OF GOD AS AN UNIMAGINABLY AWESOME INTELLIGENCE, AN UNFATHOMABLY PROFOUND MIND, A PURE AND HOLY TRANSCENDENCE. IF I SOUNDED ANTHROPOMORPHIC IN THE INTERVIEW, THAT WAS NOT MY INTENTION. I CERTAINLY DON'T THINK OF GOD AS A GUY WITH A WHITE BEARD UP IN THE SKY. I THINK YOUR WIFE WANTED TO ASK ME THIS SAME QUESTION AT THE END OF THE FIRST SEGMENT (MAYBE AFTER HER DISCUSSIONS WITH YOU?) BUT THE STATION BREAK GOT IN THE WAY.
Second, you mentioned that the "evidence" that you find compelling for the resurrection is that so many people believed it and wrote it down. I'm amazed that you would consider this any kind of evidence for anything at all. Millions of people believe and write down all kinds of things that you would agree are not at all credible. THAT'S CERTAINLY TRUE. BUT THE PRESENCE OF LOTS OF MYTHS DOWN THROUGH HISTORY DOESN'T PROVE THAT THIS ONE IS TOO. EVEN MANY ATHEISTS ADMIT THAT THE EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION IS SURPRISINGLY GOOD -- HAVE A LOOK AT "THE RESURRECTION OF THE SON OF GOD", BY N.T. WRIGHT, IF YOU WANT TO LOOK AT THAT EVIDENCE. But, following on Jean's question about compartmentalization, I just don't understand how the scientist in you is silent on this point. For you to believe in a resurrection, you have to abandon nearly all the scientifically-supported ideas you have about nature. It seems like your god would one day flip a switch and turn off natural processes, let this one event get through the door, and then flip the switch again. How does the scientist in you allow the other side of your brain to believe that? A FAIR QUESTION. BUT THE REAL QUESTION IS WHETHER OR NOT TO BELIEVE IN GOD. IF ONE MAKES THAT LEAP (AND IT IS INDEED A LEAP, NO QUESTION), AND ACKNOWLEDGES THAT GOD IS THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE AND ALL OF ITS NATURAL LAWS, THEN IT IS ONLY A VERY SHORT STEP TO ACCEPT THE POSSIBILITY THAT GOD MIGHT OCCASIONALLY AT MOMENTS OF GREAT SIGNIFICANCE CHOSEN TO INVADE NATURE AND VIOLATE THOSE LAWS. THAT HAPPENED MOST DRAMATICALLY IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST. AT THE SAME TIME, THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT I THINK MIRACLES ARE REGULAR EVENTS -- I'VE NEVER SEEN ONE AND I DON'T EXPECT TO.
Alan Attie


Steven Carr said...

Anybody attempting to defend the resurrection using Wright's methods is in big trouble.

Wright just doesn't realise that people converted to Jesus-worship (even before the term Christian had been invented) and still scoffed at the idea that God would raise a corpse from the dead.

Paul thinks it idiotic to discuss how corpses could rise, and reminds the Corinthians that heavenly things are as different from earthly things as a fish is different to the moon.

Only an idiot wonders how a fish can turn into the moon!

Paul trashes the idea that resurrected beings are made from the dust that corpses dissolve into

'The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God...'

Paul pleads in Romans 7:24 to be rescued from his body. Paul knew what happened to corpses and he wanted out of there!

Wright, of course, never quotes Romans 7:24 in his resurrection book.

Nor does he quote the author of 1 Peter 1:24 who said 'Alll flesh is grass'.

He knew that the body would be destroyed, not saved.

Anonymous said...

I believe that God as the intelligence which transcends our existance and simultaneously exists through it could allow the resurrection as a perfectly natural event. Just because we cannot resurrect ourselves does not mean that it is not a possibility within the realm of nature. I feel that anything that exists is "natural" and whatever seems incompatible is that for which we have not yet found the connection. It is exciting to have God sponsored mysteries. I have spoken to many people who have claimed a near death experience and who have encountered "a being in light" and say it was and loving and humorous and they felt the Light knew them intimately.

Anonymous said...

apparently the shroud holds evidence of radioactivity. The teeth can be seen which may point to the shroud as being some sort of x-ray

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Anonymous said...

The real scientists don't know everything. They certainly don't refer to God as "HE" even if they claim to be atheists. The curious scientists, the ones that are visionaries, reach a place where they are awed and can say, "I don't know."

It goes back to Tolstoy leaving the cerebral babble of the scientists because they could answer how, but they could not answer why. So Tolstoy went to the peasants for meaning in his life.

Art teaches us about the nature of energy. Art imitates nature, we immitate nature, we are nature.

Justice is a better baby then the cerebral babble of a scientist who is impressed with his own superego.